Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bridge of the Week #19: Hunters Point Ave. Bridge

This week's bridge is not a big one: the Hunters Point Ave. Bridge in Queens. It carries Hunters Point Ave. over the Dutch Kills between 27th St. and 30th St. in Long Island City.

It is a single-leaf bascule drawbridge, the only single-leaf I've seen so far. It is the fourth bridge on the site, the first being a wooden bridge which was replaced by an iron bridge in 1874. In 1910 a double-leaf bascule bridge was built, and in the 1980's it was rebuilt as it is today, incorporating the previous bridge's foundations. It carries one lane of traffic in each direction and a sidewalk on each side. The span is 21.8 meters long, with 18.3 meters horizontal clearance when opened.

The area is a heavily industrial zone, and not much of interest to runners in the area, unless like me, you want to hit all of the Newtown Creek/Dutch Kills bridges in one shot: Pulaski Bridge, Greenpoint Ave. Bridge, Metropolitan Ave. Bridge, Grand St. Bridge (all previously covered) and Borden Ave. Bridge (currently under reconstruction). The nearest subway station is the Hunters Point Ave. station on the 7 train, a ways to the west. I haven't been able to find the origin of the name Hunters Point Ave. (sometimes called Hunterspoint Ave., but never Hunter's Point Ave.), but the bridge was named after the street and that's good enough for me. If anyone's dying to know, I'll dig further.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Race Report: Joe Kleinerman 12-Hour

What a beautiful day it would have been for laying in the grass under a tree. Instead, we were running in circles for 12 hours. Saturday, June 19 was the date for the 25th Joe Kleinerman 12-Hour race. The race was named after Joe Kleinerman, a towering figure in New York running history. This race was held for 23 consecutive years up to 2004, then again in 2008 and this year. It's an event rich with history, and very repsectful of history, and has been an important race for me personally. The 2003 edition was just ny 3rd ultra, in the 2004 race Byron Lane and I battled hard late in the race until Byron finally won by half a mile, and I also finished 2nd in 2008. So I was hoping I might be able to pull out a win this year and take home the Joe Kleinerman Cup.

The weather was nearly perfect for a pre-summer day, temperatures in the 80's, sunny, light breeze. It would have been perfect for just about any outdoor activity, but was a little warm for a 12-hour race, and for a few hours at least it was feeling quite warm. Fortunately most of the course was shaded and the race volunteers took good care of us with plenty of fluids, foods and the blessed ice cold sponges. Richie had told us before the race that there was a shortage of volunteers for this event, as many of the regulars had schedule conflicts. But from my perspective there was no sign of it and everything went off without a hitch, the aid station was always well-stocked.

I was very much looking forward to this race also because it would be a chance to see many friends, some of whom I haven't seen for a while. A lot of the regulars were there, who are always a pleasure to see, but I'll give special mention to: Admas Belilgne, fresh off a Comrades finish, and her first New York ultra in a while after an injury; the recently-engaged Shishaldin in her first ultra in a while; Ray Krolewicz, who drove up from South Carolina as he often does; Dave Luljak and Barbara Christen from Maryland, functioning as runners, t-shirt designers, raffle prize scroungers, parents of two young runners, not to mention Dave being the course record-holder at 87+ miles; Mike Costello, my Badwater pacer/crew member from last year in his first BUS event; and last but not by any means least, Greg Accetta, a wrestler who has recently taken up running, who saw my name on the Badwater entry list and emailed me asking for ultra advice, and who ran his very first race of any length, finishing with over 40 miles!

As I've said, I finished second in this race twice before, finishing second to Byron Lane both times, once in a very hard-fought battle to the finish. So I was looking forward to another battle with Byron. But we had the presence of another heavy hitter to contend with, Mike Arnstein, a fellow New York City resident. Mike finished second at JFK last year and won Sybil this year, so he could really have a phenonemal performance. It was tough to say, though, since Mike is entered in Western States 100 next weekend and might not want to go full out. For myself, I have Badwater in three weeks, so I wanted to be careful how hard I push as well. I was pretty confident, having put up some good 12-hour splits in the last two 24-hour races I ran, but it was tough to say how things would play out.

At the 7:30 am start, Mike started out fast and pulled away from me by the first lap, each lap being just short of a mile. But I was going as fast as I thought wise, even a bit too fast maybe, so I didn't give chase. After the first couple of hours, Byron wasn't looking like he was at full strength, and afterwards admitted to some stomach problems. Mike had lapped me twice in about four hours, but I was still going as fast as I dared in the warm weather. As the weather warmed up, I passed Mike back once as he was stretching out a bit. By about the 6:30 mark (2:00 pm) I had made up the difference on Mike, who was sepnding sme time walking. Eventually I worked my way up so that I had a number of laps on bot Mike and Byron, while also keeping an eye on Brennen Wysong, who was running extremely well. I never discount a late surge from Byron, but throughout the last four hours of the race, I became confident that if I could sustain my pace I could finish with a win and a good mileage. But also in the last few hours the temperature cooled off a bit, the shadows were longer, and on the stretch along the north end of the park especially a very refreshing breeze came along to make me feel so good! I did come away with the win in about 79.4 miles. Mike got second with I believe 74, and Byron third with over 70, and Brennen also finished over 70. I think that's the first time since I've run the event that four runners finished over 70!

Alicja Barahona won the women's race with 68 miles, Gail Marino, a former outright winner of this race, was second, and Susan Warren third.

Other items of note: one of the hardest things in this race is to keep running when the ice cream truck parks in the parking lot in the hot afternoon, but Richie countered that by providing root beer floats to the runners! In 2008 Dave Luljak jogged and walked (and rested) with his son Peter for a total of over 30 miles! This year Peter was back and with Dave got 40 miles! Plus his 13-year old sister took part as well, running and walking (and resting) most of the time with Al Prawda's 9-year old daughter Zoey, each completing 30 miles. Not to worry, all three youngsters were mixing the jogging, walking and resting, and not pushing too hard. That, I think, is the beauty of a race like this, where a runner, particularly if new to this kind of running, can run a while, walk a while, rest a while, with food and drink readily available, and enjoy themselves while not being pressured to push themselves more than they are ready for. So it was great to see some first-time ultrarunners, as I mentioned Greg Accetta, and also Mike's wife Vicki, who had a good total in her furst ultra.

On top of it all, there were a number of items that were raffled off, and I was the lucky recipient of an excellent lightweight windbreaker, and quite a few people were lucky winners as well.

So congratulations to all the athletes, thanks to John Garlepp and the Millrose AA for donating the Joe Kleinerman cups, to Dave Luljak and Barbara Christen for all their worke mentioned above, and a big thanks to Richie as always, and the volunteers for putting on a stellar event!
Pics: 1. Taking my shoes off after the race (courtesy of Frank Colella); 2. Frank C., me, Lucimar and Emmy with our awards (courtesy of Frank Colella, although I don't remember who actually took the picture); 3. The staging area before the race; 4. Shishaldin, me, Yuri Esperov and Bob Oberkehr after the race

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bridge of the Week #18: Greenpoint Ave. Bridge

This week's bridge is the Greenpoint Ave. Bridge that carries Greenpoint Ave. over Newtown Creek, connecting Greenpoint, Brooklyn at Kingsland Ave. and Blissville, Queens at Review Ave./Van Dam St. Greenpoint Ave. eventually, in Sunnyside, Queens, turns into Roosevelt Ave. The bridge is also known as the J.J. Byrne Memorial Bridge, after James J. Byrne, Brooklyn borough president from 1926-1930. (Blissville, by the way, was named after a man named Neziah Bliss, not because it's so beautiful and heavenly, which it most certainly is not, being a heavily industrialized area.) Greenpoint (originally Green Point), the area that includes the piece of land that sticks out into the East River, was so named by Dutch navigators I believe back in the 1630's.

This is a twin-leaf bascule bridge with 45.4 meters horizontal clearance when open and 7.9 meters vertical clearance when closed. It carries two lanes of traffic in each direction and sidewalks on each side. It is one of the newer bridges in the city, having been built in 1987, although there were five different bridges previously on the site, the earliest being called the Blissville Bridge. The most recent was built in 1900 and extensively rebuilt in 1919 after damaged by fire. Before the fire, the bridge also carried tracks for the Long Island Railroad. It sits about 1.3 miles from where the Newtown Creek flows into the East River, and less than a mile upcreek from the Pulaski Bridge. The draw is opened several hundred times a year for both vessels and for tests, but in the early days the Newtown Creek saw more traffic than the Mississippi River, reportedly.

The pavement on both the sidewalks and the streets is pretty beat up. And apparently bicyclists have been having trouble competing with cars for road space, often causing them to take to the sidewalks, which is probably not so bad since I doubt pedestrian traffic there is heavy. It wasn't when I was there. But renovations are set to begin this month and be completed in the fall, and word has it that bike lanes will be included at the expense of one lane of traffic in each direction, but that doesn't sit well with some of the indutry owners in the area.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bridge of the Week #17: Eastchester Bridge

This week's (again, actually last week's - I'll get caught up) bridge is the Eastchester Bridge. This bridge, in the Eastchester neighborhood in northeast The Bronx (The northeast Bronx?) carries Boston Road northeast over the Hutchinson River just before it crosses the city/county line into Pelham Manor of Westchester County.

Unfortunately, none of my regular sources for bridge length, clearance above the water, construction date and other specs, deign to mention this bridge. It's certainly not the most interesting or attractive of bridges, but it is of fairly good length and height. I'll just give the best description I can, and augment that with pictures I took. It is not a drawbridge, it is fixed, and appears to have been built in the 50's or 60's. I actually like it in the sense that it reminds me of some of the viaducts in Nebraska. Of the bridges thus far reviewed in this blog, it is probably most similar to the Pulaski Bridge (2,810 feet long, 39 feet clearance above the water), but probably shorter and maybe a little higher. It feels a little steeper running it. It carries two lanes of traffic in each direction and has sidewalks on both sides. On the northeast end it can be accessed at Boston Road and Ropes Ave., although the downriver sidwalk can be accessed at McOwen Ave., and its southwest end is at Boston Road and Conner St. as it becomes Provost Ave., but again the downriver sidewalk doesn't actually start until Peartree Ave. (another one of my favorite street names).

This bridge is probably seldom used by runners, although I did see it used by a fair number of pedestrians who probably live in the area. As I said, the city/county line is just a few blocks north on Boston Road (which becomes Boston Post Road upon crossing the line). Certainly Pelham Manor has many beautiful homes. Co-op City is not far to the south on the west bank of the Hutchinson River, and on the east bank is Pelham Bay Park, which continues on the west bank further south. Most of the area under and directly near the bridge (in the Bronx) seems to be taken up by junk and scrap yards. The nearest subway station is the Dyre Ave. station, the 5 train terminal at Dyre Ave. and 233rd St. a few blocks to the west of the bridge.

However, Boston Road, or Boston Post Road, was an early highway which was used to carry mail between New York and Boston as far back as the 1670's, and followed old Indian paths, making it one of our first highways. The current Boston Road was actually rerouted a bit in the Bronx in 1792 because wealthy landowner Lewis Morris wanted it to run through his property. The road now, as it crosses the bridge, holds the designation of U.S. Highway 1.
The Hutchinson River was named after Anne Hutchinson, the first settler in the area, who arrived in the 1640's. Eastchester is a fairly generic name coined no doubt by the early English settlers, and contrasts with Westchester, as in Westchester County. Apparently the neighborhood residents don't often refer to the area as Eastchester, possibly to avoid confusion with the town of Eastchester a few miles north in Westchester County. Which came first, I don't know, but the neighborhood used to belong to Westchester County and didn't become part of New York City until 1895. So don't ask me.

Pics: 1. Entrance on the southwest end; 2. Entrance on the northeast end; 3. View to the southeast (downriver), ahh... how nice, until you see...; 4. View to the northwest (upriver)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bridge of the Week #16: 145 St. Bridge

The bridge for this week (actually this should have been last week) is, I'm pretty sure, the newest bridge in the city - the 145 St. Bridge. This bridge crosses the Harlem River, joining the intersection of 145 St. and Lenox Ave. in Manhattan with 149 St. and River Ave. in the Bronx.

The 145 st. Bridge is a swing bridge with two lanes of traffic in each direction and a sidewalk on each side. The main span is 300 feet long, and the total length is 1,603 feet. The original bridge on the site was built from 1901-1905. It was designed by Alfred Boller, who also designed the University Heights Bridge, Macombs Dam Bridge and Madison Ave. Bridge, and was to be modeled after the Macomb's Dam Bridge, but without the ornamentation, and powered by electricity rather than steam. Like the other Harlem River bridges, it was designed to comply with requirements for the Harlem River Ship Channel, opened in 1895.

Work to rebuild the bridge began in July 2004, with total closure taking place in November 2006, and reopening in June 2007. The swing span (constructed off-site and floated to the bridge site) and approach spans were completely replaced, as were the machinery and electrical systems. A plaque above the roadway in each direction reads "145 St. Bridge, 2007".

On the Manhattan side of the bridge is Harlem, as it blends with Washington Heights. It is a very interesting neighborhood and there are small parks nearby, including a relatively short riverwalk south of the bridge, reachable from 139th St., but there are no major landmarks nearby. Actually, as Lenox Ave. crosses 146 St. it is renamed Esplanade Gardens Plaza, but rather than an esplanade, garden or a plaza, there is a large apartment building on one side, and a construction site where there used to be a bus depot on the other side. The 3 train dos have a station at 145th and Lenox.
On the Bronx side is chiefly an industrial area, although about a quarter mile to the north on River Dr. is a new big-box shopping center - runners beware of the traffic - and about a half mile north of the bridge is Yankee Stadium and Macombs Dam Park (which can be reached directly from Macombs Dam Bridge). Three blocks to the east of the bridge is the Grand Concourse, where you can catch the 2, 4 or 5 train at the 149th St. station, Hostos Community College is there, and just to the north is Franz Siegel Park.

For runners, the 145 St. Bridge can be part of a very interesting workout of running across all or many of the Harlem River bridges, as the Willis Ave. Bridge, 3rd Ave. Bridge, Madison Ave. Bridge, 145 St. Bridge and Macombs Dam Bridge all follow in close succession, the Washington Bridge, University Heights Bridge and Broadway Bridge within a few miles to the north, and the Triboro Bridge nearby to the south.
Pics: 1. The original 145 St. Bridge; 2. The new span being floated under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.